With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads, and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.
“If we can harness the latent power of markets ... to a higher purpose than maximizing shareholder value, we can unleash one of the most powerful manmade forces ever created,” Jay Coen Gilbert said at the 2016 Net Impact conference in Philadelphia.
Gilbert co-founded B Lab, the nonprofit behind B Corp certification. As B Corporations, firms commit to a rigorous set of standards. Nearly 2,000 companies (including TriplePundit) are now B Corp certified. An additional 50,000 used the B Impact Assessment, a free tool provided by B Lab, to measure their impact and make improvements.
Those who come away from the assessment as B Corps rank among the highest in their industries for social and environmental sustainability. But what may surprise some in the business community is that B Corps often outshine their peers financially as well. Read on to learn more about 12 B Corps taking their industries by storm.
Fashion and apparel
Outdoor gear label Patagonia has been sustainable from the start. And its green cred helped it grow from a small company to a fan favorite, raking in around $750 million in sales last year, CEO Rose Marcario told Fortune.
And disproving the concept that sustainability kills business, Patagonia managed to boost sales while staying true to its roots. Its B Impact Assessment score is a seriously impressive 151 out of 200, the highest on our list, compared to a median score of 55 for all companies. The company is also a registered benefit corporation in California.
It's that dedication to its core brand that keeps customers coming back. And Patagonia arguably outdid itself on Black Friday by donating all sales revenue to charity. The company sold a record $10 million in merchandise, all of which will go to grassroots environmental groups.
It's tough to talk about sustainable fashion without mentioning Eileen Fisher. The company is targeting 100 percent sustainability with its 2020 goals, and focuses on all aspects of its practices: It uses organic and sustainable fabrics, manufactures in the U.S. or through fair trade supply chains, and has a specific focus on human rights.
And, with an emphasis on simple basics and staying true to its brand, the company developed a loyal following. It's now worth over $400 million, Fortune reported. Founder Eileen Fisher, who owns 65 percent of the company (her employees own the rest), also amassed a personal fortune of over $200 million.
If you find yourself coveting thy neighbor's glasses, chances are she got them from Warby Parker. This e-commerce label burst onto the scene and completely disrupted the eyewear industry -- earning customer acclaim and quickly gobbling up market share. Only five years after its founding, the company was valued at over $1 billion.
And Warby Parker did all of this while giving a pair of glasses away for each one it sold. One of the pioneers in the one-for-one business model, the company has distributed over 2 million pairs of glasses to date. Its B Impact score is also an impressive 112.
With her label Reformation, 37-year-old entrepreneur Yael Aflalo set out to do the unthinkable: merge fast fashion and sustainability. The up-and-coming brand's luxe collections are all made from sustainable textiles, such as vintage and deadstock fabrics. And new designs appear in its stores and online every every few weeks, putting it on par with less scrupulous labels.
The company raised $12 million in a Series-A financing round last year, counting supermodel Karlie Kloss among the investors. In its coverage of the funding round, Fortune labeled Reformation a "cult favorite," and we're inclined to agree. Despite having only four stores, the company counts it-girls like Kloss, Rihanna and Taylor Swift among its fans -- helping it clear $25 million in revenue in 2014.
Cleaning and personal care
Method launched in 2001 with a few natural home cleaning sprays. By the following year, its products were on the shelves in Target stores nationwide.
In 2012, it rocked the packaged goods industry again by creating a soap bottle made almost entirely from recovered ocean trash. The same year, with revenues topping $100 million, it merged with green Belgian company Ecover for an undisclosed sum. Family-owned Ecover claims the merger created the world's largest green cleaning company, with revenue “north of $300 million,” reports Fidelum Partners.
Like Method, Seventh Generation burst onto the nontoxic cleaning products scene and quickly earned customer attention. The company also drew the eye of investors and was acquired by Unilever earlier this year for an undisclosed sum. After enjoying rapid growth over the past decade, the company now generates about $200 million in sales annually.
And while Seventh Generation ran into some legal trouble for its 'natural' labeling, which a judge ruled misled consumers, its B Impact score is an impressive 125 -- indicating most of its green claims are spot on.
The Honest Co.
Founded by actress Jessica Alba, the Honest Co. earned critical acclaim for its natural baby products and cleaning supplies. In only a few years, its valuation neared $2 billion.
Like Seventh Generation, Honest found itself in court over labeling and ingredients claims. The fact that it's sustainable enough to be a B Corp -- with a respectable 107 B Impact score -- should give customers some peace of mind. But eco-minded companies are wise to take notice of such lawsuits and begin labeling products more accurately, or else risk serious damage to their reputations and possible loss in market share.
Food and beverage
Ben & Jerry's
Some worried that Ben & Jerry's would lose its sustainability gusto after being acquired by Unilever in 2000. But it didn't work out that way. The company maintains an independent board that has the authority to support and defend its social mission, CEO Jostein Solheim told 3p.
Ben & Jerry's became a B Corp in 2012 and is still leading the charge socially -- launching flavors to commemorate everything from voting rights to racial equality. And its bottom line is thriving under the Unilever umbrella, more than tripling revenue in 15 years, the New York Times reported.
New Belgium Brewing Co.
New Belgium Brewing is widely regarded as one of the most sustainable breweries in the nation. Taking a holistic approach to sustainability, the Fort Collins, Colorado-based brewery uses science-based metrics to track environmental performance.
New Belgium diverts 99.9 percent of its waste from landfills and reduced water use per barrel of beer to 3.5:1 (averages range from 6:1 to 10:1). Its B Impact Assessment score is also the second highest on our list at 142.
Plum Organics is a certified B Corp and benefit corporation. The purveyor of nutritious, organic baby food was purchased by Campbell Soup Co. in 2013. Although the buy made some shoppers nervous, Plum mantained autonomy and said the deal would strengthen the sustainability of both companies.
Last year Etsy became the first certified B Corporation to go public, with an IPO valued at $3.38 billion. Some worried the company's marriage with Wall Street would hurt its sustainability practices, but so far that's proven not to be the case.
While grossing close to $2 billion, the peer-to-peer e-commerce company maintained an impressive B Impact score of 127 during its first year as a public company. Not too shabby.
More than 11 million users, including 744 of the Fortune 1,000 companies, trust Hootsuite to manage their social media programs, according to B Lab. The company saw its revenues increase by an astounding 56,000 percent in only five years, while remaining sustainable enough to retain B Corp status.
Image credits: 1) Net Impact; 2) Eileen Fisher; 3) Method; 4) Ben & Jerry's; 5) Plum Organics
Mary has reported on sustainability and social impact for over a decade and now serves as executive editor of TriplePundit. She is also the general manager of TriplePundit's Brand Studio, which has worked with dozens of organizations on sustainability storytelling, and VP of content for TriplePundit's parent company 3BL.